This article is about an ethnic group. For information on the geographical Punjabi region, see Punjab region. For other uses, see Punjabi (disambiguation).
Total population
c.~121 million[1][lower-alpha 1]
Regions with significant populations
 Pakistan 90,512,900[2][3]
 India 29,102,477[4]
 United Kingdom 700,000[5]
 Canada 430,705[6]
 United States 250,000[7]
 Australia 71,228[8]
 Malaysia 56,400[9]
 Libya 54,000[10]
 Norway 24,000[11]
 Bangladesh 23,700[12]
 New Zealand 19,752[13]
   Nepal 808[14]

Pakistan: Western Punjabi and Urdu
India: Eastern Punjabi and Hindi
Diaspora: Punjabi and English


Islam in Pakistan
Hinduism in India
Sikhism in Punjab, India


The Punjabis (Punjabi: پنجابی, ਪੰਜਾਬੀ, पंजाबी), also Panjabis or Punjabi people, are an ethnic group native to or associated with the Punjab, who speak the Punjabi language.[15] Punjab literally means the land of five waters (Persian: panj ("five") āb ("waters").[16] The name of the region was introduced by the Turko-Persian conquerors[17] of South Asia and more formally popularised during the Mughal Empire.[16][18] Punjab is often referred to as the breadbasket in both Pakistan and India.[19][20]

The coalescence of the various tribes, castes and the inhabitants of the Punjab into a broader common "Punjabi" identity initiated from the onset of the 18th century CE. Prior to that the sense and perception of a common "Punjabi" ethno-cultural identity and community did not exist, even though the majority of the various communities of the Punjab had long shared linguistic, cultural and racial commonalities.[21][22][23]

Traditionally, Punjabi identity is primarily linguistic, geographical and cultural. Its identity is independent of historical origin or religion, and refers to those who reside in the Punjab region, or associate with its population, and those who consider the Punjabi language their mother tongue.[24] Integration and assimilation are important parts of Punjabi culture, since Punjabi identity is not based solely on tribal connections. More or less all Punjabis share the same cultural background.[25][26]

Historically, the Punjabi people were a heterogeneous group and were subdivided into a number of clans called biradari (literally meaning "brotherhood") or tribes, with each person bound to a clan. However, Punjabi identity also included those who did not belong to any of the historical tribes. With the passage of time tribal structures are coming to an end and are being replaced with a more cohesive[27] and holistic society, as community building and group cohesiveness[28][29] form the new pillars of Punjabi society.[30]

Punjabi nationality

Although Punjab has not for centuries been an independent nation state, but rather a province within India and Pakistan, the Punjabi may still be regarded as a "nation" according to the definition: "a large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular state or territory".[31][32][33]

Geographic distribution

The Punjab region, with its rivers. The land of the Punjabi People
Cultural and historical Punjab region of India and Pakistan

Independence and its aftermath

The 1947 independence of India and Pakistan, and the subsequent partition of Punjab, is considered by historians to be the beginning of the end of the British Empire.[34] The UNHCR estimates 14 million Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims were displaced during the partition.[35] To date, this is considered the largest mass migration in human history.[36]

Until 1947, the province of Punjab was ruled by a coalition comprising the Indian National Congress, the Sikh-led Shiromani Akali Dal and the Unionist Muslim League. However, the growth of Muslim nationalism led to the All India Muslim League becoming the dominant party in the 1946 elections. As Muslim separatism increased, the opposition from Punjabi Hindus and Sikhs increased substantially. Communal violence on the eve of Indian independence led to the dismissal of the coalition government, although the succeeding League ministry was unable to form a majority. Along with the province of Bengal, Punjab was partitioned on religious lines – the Muslim-majority West becoming part of the new Muslim state of Pakistan, and the Hindu and Sikh East remaining in India. Partition was accompanied by massive violence on both sides, claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.[37] West Punjab was virtually cleansed of its Hindu and Sikh populations, who were forced to leave for India, while East Punjab and Delhi were virtually cleansed of the Muslim population.

By the 1960s, Indian Punjab underwent reorganisation as Sikh demands for an autonomous state increased. The Hindu-majority areas were formed into the states of Himachal Pradesh and Haryana respectively, making Sikhs the majority in the state of Punjab itself. In the 1980s, Sikh separatism combined with popular anger against the Indian Army's counter-insurgency operations (especially Operation Bluestar) led to violence and disorder in Indian Punjab, which only subsided in the 1990s. Political power in Indian Punjab is contested between the secular Congress Party and the Sikh religious party Akali Dal and its allies, the Bharatiya Janata Party. Indian Punjab remains one of the most prosperous of India's states and is considered the "breadbasket of India."

Subsequent to partition, West Punjabis made up a majority of the Pakistani population, and the Punjab province constituted 40% of Pakistan's total land mass. Today, Punjabis continue to be the largest ethnic group in Pakistan, accounting for half of the country's population. They reside predominantly in the province of Punjab, neighbouring Azad Kashmir in the region of Jammu and Kashmir and in Islamabad Capital Territory. Punjabis are also found in large communities in the largest city of Pakistan, Karachi, located in the Sindh province.

Punjabis in India can be found in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and the Union Territory of Chandigarh. Large communities of Punjabis are also found in the Jammu region of Jammu and Kashmir and in Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. In Delhi,

Ethnic groups in Pakistan by region.

Pakistani Punjabis

Punjabis make up about half of the population of Pakistan. The Punjabis found in Pakistan belong to groups known as biradaris. In addition, Punjabi society is divided into two divisions, the zamindar groups or qoums, traditionally associated with farming and the moeens, who are traditionally artisans. Some zamindars are further divided into groups such as the Mughals, Rajputs, Jats, Shaikhs or (Muslim Khatri), Gujjars, Awans, Arains, Malik, Gakhars, Dogars and Mian Rehmani. People from neighbouring regions, such as Kashmiris, Pashtun and Baluch, also form important elements in the Punjabi population. Major Moeen groups include the Lohar, Khateek, Rawal, Chhimba Darzi, Teli, Qassab, Mallaah, Dhobi, Muslim Sunars, Mirasi, who are associated with a particular crafts or occupation.[38]

Punjabi people have traditionally and historically been farmers and soldiers, which has transferred into modern times with their dominance of agriculture and military fields in Pakistan. In addition, Punjabis in Pakistan have been quite prominent politically, having had many elected members of parliament. As the most ardent supporters of a Pakistani state, the Punjabis in Pakistan have shown a strong predilection towards the adoption of the Urdu language but nearly all speak Punjabi, and still identify themselves as ethnic Punjabis. Religious homogeneity remains elusive as a predominant Islamic Sunni-Shia population with Ahmadiyya and Christian minority. A variety of related sub-groups exist in Pakistan and are often considered by many Pakistani Punjabis to be simply regional Punjabis including the Seraikis (who overlap and are often considered transitional with the Sindhis).

The recent definition of Punjabi people, in Pakistani Punjab, is not based on racial classification, common ancestry or endogamy,[39] but based on geographical and cultural basis and thus makes it a unique definition. In Pakistani Punjab, there is not a great emphasis on a single dialect of the language and Pakistani Punjabis speak many distinct dialects,[40][41] which include Hindko, Seraiki, Potohari or Pahari and still identify themselves as Punjabis. People from a few provinces of Pakistan have made Punjab their home in recent times and now their consecutive generations identify themselves as Punjabis. The largest community to assimilate in Punjabi culture and now identify themselves as Punjabis are Kashmiris which include noted personalities like Nawaz Sharif, Sheikh Rasheed, Hamid Mir and the most noted poet Muhammad Iqbal, to name a few. The second largest community after Kashmiris are people of India, who identify themselves as Punjabis. The other communities to assimilate in Punjabis include Baloch who can be found throughout Punjab, and Baltis. The welcoming nature of Punjab have led to successful integration of almost all ethnic groups in Punjab over time. The Urdu, Punjabi and other language speakers who arrived in Punjab in 1947[42][43] have now assimilated and their second and third generations identify themselves as Punjabis even though it is not the same in Sindh Pakistan where they form distinct ethnic groups.

Indian Punjabis

The Punjabi-speaking people make 2.83% of India's population as of 2001. The total number of Indian Punjabis is unknown due to the fact that ethnicity is not recorded in the Census of India. The Sikhs are largely concentrated in the modern-day state of Punjab forming 58% of the population with Hindus forming 38%.[44] Ethnic Punjabis are believed to account for at least 35% of Delhi's total population and are predominantly Hindi-speaking Punjabi Hindus.[45][46][47] Muslims in Delhi are 13% of the population. In Chandigarh, 80.78% people of the population are Hindus, 13.11% are Sikhs, 4.87% are Muslims and minorities are Christians, Buddhists and Jains.[48]

Like the Punjabi Muslim society, these various castes are associated with particular occupations or crafts.

Indian Punjab is also home to small groups of Muslims and Christian. Most of the East Punjab's Muslims (in today's states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Chandigarh) left for West Punjab in 1947. However, a small community still exists today, mainly in Malerkotla and Qadian , the only Muslim princely state among the seven that formed the erstwhile Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU). The other six (mostly Sikh) states were: Patiala, Nabha, Jind, Faridkot, Kapurthala and Kalsia.

The Indian censuses record the native languages, but not the descent of the citizens. Linguistic data cannot accurately predict ethnicity: for example, Punjabis make up a large portion of Delhi's population but many descendants of the Punjabi Hindu refugees who came to Delhi following the partition of India now speak Hindi as their first language. Thus, there is no concrete official data on the ethnic makeup of Delhi and other Indian states.[47]:8–10

The Punjab region within India maintains a strong influence on the perceived culture of India towards the rest of the world. Numerous Bollywood film productions use the Punjabi language in their songs and dialogue as well as traditional dances such as bhangra. Bollywood has been dominated by Punjabi artists including actors Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Vinod Khanna, Dharmendra, Shammi Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor, Kabir Bedi, Rajesh Khanna, Angad Singh, Amitabh Bacchan (from his mother's side), Pran, Prem Chopra, Vinod Mehra, Manoj Kumar, Akshay Kumar Sunny Deol, Anil Kapoor, Poonam Dhillon, Juhi Chawla, Hrithik Roshan and Kareena Kapoor, singers Mohammed Rafi, Mahendra Kapoor, and Narendra Chanchal. Punjabi Prime Ministers of India include Gulzarilal Nanda, Inder Kumar Gujral and Dr. Manmohan Singh. There are numerous players in the Indian cricket team both past and present including Bishen Singh Bedi, Kapil Dev, Mohinder Amarnath, Navjot Sidhu, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh Virat Kohli, and Yograj Singh.

Emigration and diaspora

Main article: Punjabi diaspora
Punjabis around the world

The Punjabi people have emigrated in large numbers to many parts of the world. In the early 20th century, many Punjabis began settling in the United States, including independence activists who formed the Ghadar Party. The United Kingdom has a significant number of Punjabis from both Pakistan and India. The most populous areas being London, Birmingham and Glasgow. In Canada (specifically Vancouver and Toronto) and the United States, (specifically California's Central Valley). In the 1970s, a large wave of emigration of Punjabis (predominately from Pakistan) began to the Middle East, in places such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. There are also large communities in East Africa including the countries of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Punjabis have also emigrated to Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia including Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong. Of recent times many Punjabis have also moved to Italy.

History of Punjab

Main article: History of Punjab
One of the first known kings of ancient Punjab, King Porus who fought with Alexander

Indigenous population flourished in this region, leading to a developed civilisation in 5th to 4th millennium BC,[49] the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. Also Buddhism remnants have been found like Mankiala which corroborate the Buddhist background of this region as well.

The remains of the ancient city of Taxila,[50] and many ornaments that have been found in this region,suggests that,[51] one of the centres of Indus Valley Civilization was established at many parts of Punjab, most notably Taxila and Harappa,[52] Punjab became a centre of early civilisation from around 3300 BC. According to Historians this region was ruled by many small kingdoms and tribes around 4th and 5th BC. The earliest known notable local king of this region was known as King Porus[53][54] and he fought a famous Battle of the Hydaspes[55] against Alexander. His kingdom, known as Pauravas, was situated between Hydaspes (modern Jhelum and Acesines (modern day Chenab).[53] These kings fought local battles to gain more ground.Taxiles or Omphis another local north Indian king, wanted to defeat his eastern adversary Porus in a turf war and he invited Alexander the Great to defeat Porus. This marked the first intrusion of the West in the Indian subcontinent and North India in general. But such was the valor of Porus and his kingdom forces in Punjab, that despite being defeated, he was appreciated by Alexander the Great for his skill and valor and he was granted further territories in the North.[56] The other Indian kings did not like the fact that Porus was now an ally of Western forces. In less than ten years another Indian king Chandragupta Maurya[57] defeated the forces and conquered the Northern Indian regions up to the Kabul river (in modern-day Afghanistan). Alexander mostly ruled this land with the help of local allies like Porus.[58]

Centuries later, areas of the Punjab region were ruled by local kings followed by the Ghaznavids, Ghurids, Mughals, and others. Islam arrived in Punjab when the Muslim Umayyad army led by Muhammad bin Qasim conquered Sindh in 711 AD, by defeating Raja Dahir. Some of the Muslims are said to have settled in the region and adopted the local culture. Centuries later, the Ghaznavids introduced aspects of foreign Persian and Turkic culture in Punjab.

Map showing the sites and extent of the Indus Valley Civilisation. Harappa was the centre of one of the core regions of the Indus Valley Civilization, located in central Punjab. The Harappan architecture and Harrapan Civilization was one of the most developed in the old Bronze Age.

The earliest written Punjabi dates back to the writing of Sufi Muslim poets of the 11th Century. Its literature spread Punjab's unique voice of peace and spirituality to the entire civilisation of the region.

Regions of North India and Punjab were annexed into the Afghan Durrani Empire later on in 1747, being a vulnerable target.[59] But Afghan rule in Punjab was very short lived as many local tribal people like Gakhars fought against Afghan rule and took the lands back. The grandson of Ahmed Shah Durrani (Zaman Shah Durrani), lost it to Ranjit Singh, a Punjabi Sikh. He was born in 1780 to Maha Singh and Raj Kaur in Gujranwala, Punjab. Ranjit took a leading role in organising a Sikh militia and got control of the Punjab region from Zaman Shah Durrani. Ranjit started a Punjabi military expedition to expand his territory.[60] Under his command the Sikh army began invading neighbouring territories outside of Punjab. The Jamrud Fort at the entry of Khyber Pass was built by Ranjit Singh.[61] The Sikh Empire slowly began to weaken after the death of Hari Singh Nalwa at the Battle of Jamrud in 1837. Two years later, in 1839, Ranjit Singh died and his son took over control of the empire. By 1850 the British took over control of the Punjab region after defeating the Sikhs in the Anglo-Sikh wars,[62][63] establishing their rule over the region for around the next 100 years as a part of the British Raj. Many Sikhs and Punjabis later pledged their allegiance to the British, serving as sepoys (native soldiers) within the Raj.


Main articles: Sikhism and Sufism

People of Punjab remained tolerant throughout the history and that is why many different religious ideologies were tolerated there despite some uproar by some religious extremists. The region of Punjab is the birthplace of one monotheistic religion that is known as Sikhism.[64][65] Also many well known followers of Sufism[66] were born in Punjab.[67]

Religion in the Punjab Province
(1941 Census of India)[68]
Religion Percent

Due to religious tensions, emigration between Punjabi people started far before the partition and dependable records.[69][70] Shortly prior to the Partition of British India, Punjab had a slight majority Muslim population at about 53.2% in 1941, which was an increase from the previous years.[71] With the division of Punjab and the subsequent independence of Pakistan and later India, mass migrations of Muslims from Indian Punjab to Pakistan, and those of Sikhs and Hindus from Pakistan to Indian Punjab occurred. Today, the majority of Pakistani Punjabis follow Islam with a small Christian minority, while the majority of Indian Punjabis are either Sikhs or Hindus with a Muslim minority. Punjab is also the birthplace of Sikhism and the Islamic reform movement Ahmadiyya.[72]

Following the independence of Pakistan and the subsequent partition of British India, a process of population exchange took place in 1947 as Muslims began to leave India and headed to the newly created Pakistan and Hindus and Sikhs left Pakistan[73] for the newly created state of India.[74] As a result of these population exchanges, both parts are now relatively homogeneous, where religion is concerned.

Population trends for major religious groups in the Punjab Province of British India (1881–1941)[68]
% 1881
% 1891
% 1901
% 1911
% 1921
% 1931
% 1941
Islam 47.6% 47.8% 49.6% 51.1% 51.1% 52.4% 53.2%
Hinduism 43.8% 43.6% 41.3% 35.8% 35.1% 30.2% 29.1%
Sikhism 8.2% 8.2% 8.6% 12.1% 12.4% 14.3% 14.9%
Christianity 0.1% 0.2% 0.3% 0.8% 1.3% 1.5% 1.5%
Other religions / No religion 0.3% 0.2% 0.2% 0.2% 0.1% 1.6% 1.3%

Punjabi Muslims

See also: Punjabi Muslims
Badshahi Masjid – The largest mosque of the Mughal Empire built by emperor Aurangzeb.

The people of Punjab were mainly Hindus with a Buddhist minority, when the Umayyad Muslim army led by Muhammad bin Qasim conquered Punjab and Sindh in 711 AD. Following this a variety of Muslim dynasties and kingdoms ruled the Punjab region, including Ghaznavids under Mahmud of Ghazni,[75][76][77] the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughal Empire and finally the Durrani Empire. The province became an important centre and Lahore was made into a second capital of the Turk Ghaznavid Empire. The Delhi Sultanate and later Mughal Empire ruled the region. Missionary Sufi saints whose dargahs dot the landscape of Punjab region also played a minor role in bringing about conversion. Sufis also and comprised the educated elites of the Punjab for many centuries. Early classical Punjabi epics, such as Heer Ranjha were written by the Sufi, Waris Shah.[78] Muslims established Punjabi literature, utilised Shahmukhi as the predominant script of the Punjab, as well as made major contributions to the music, art, cuisine and culture of the region. The Mughals controlled the region from 1524 until 1739 and would also lavish some parts of the province with building projects such as the Shalimar Gardens and the Badshahi Mosque, both situated in Lahore. The Muslim establishment in the Punjab occurred over a period of several centuries lasting until towards the end of the British Raj and the division of the Punjab province between Pakistan and India in August 1947. After the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the minority Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India while the Muslim refugees from India settled in the Pakistan.[79][80] Today Muslims constitute only 1.53% of Eastern Punjab in India as now the majority of Muslims live in Western Punjab in Pakistan.

The vast majority of Pakistan's population are native speakers of the Punjabi language and it is the most spoken language in Pakistan. The majority of Pakistani Punjabis speak the standard Punjabi dialect of Majhi, which is considered the Punjabi dialect of the educated class, as well as Lahnda (including Hindko and Saraiki).

Punjabi Hindus

See also: Punjabi Hindus

In the pre-Islamic era and before the birth of Sikhism, the population of Punjab mainly followed Hinduism. Today Punjabi Hindus are mostly found in Indian Punjab and in neighboring states like Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi, which together forms a part of the historical greater Punjab region. Many of the Hindu Punjabis from the Indian capital Delhi are immigrants and their descendants, from various parts of Western Pakistani Punjab. Some Punjabi Hindus can also be found in the surrounding areas as well as the recent cosmopolitan migrants in other big cities like Mumbai. There has also been continuous migration of Punjabi Hindus to western countries like USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, European Union, UAE and UK.

The Hindu Punjabis speak different dialects including Lahnda, as well as Majhi (Standard Punjabi) and others like Doabi and Malwi. Some still have managed to retain the Punjabi dialects spoken in Western Punjab, but many have also adopted Hindi.

Punjabi Sikhs

See also: Sikhs
Nishan Sahib, flag of Punjab and the Sikh Nation

Sikhi from Sikh, meaning a "disciple", or a "learner", is a monotheistic religion and nation originated in the Punjab region of South Asia during the 15th century.[81][82] The fundamental beliefs of Sikhi, articulated in the sacred scripture Guru Granth Sahib, include faith and meditation on the name of the one creator, unity and equality of all humankind, engaging in selfless service, striving for social justice for the benefit and prosperity of all, and honest conduct and livelihood while living a householder's life.[83][84][85] Being one of the youngest amongst the major world religions, with 25-28 million adherents worldwide, Sikhi is the ninth-largest religion in the world.

In the 19th century, Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab established a secular Punjabi Sikh Empire[86] based around the Punjab. The main geographical footprint of the empire was the Punjab region to Khyber Pass in the west, to Kashmir in the north, to Sindh in the south, and Tibet in the east. The religious demography of the Sikh Empire was Muslim (70%), Sikh (17%), Hindu (13%).[87] The population was 3.5 million, according to Amarinder Singh`s The Last Sunset: The Rise and Fall of the Lahore Durbar. In 1799 Ranjit Singh moved the capital to Lahore from Gujranwala, where it had been established in 1763 by his grandfather, Charat Singh.[88]

The Punjab region was a region straddling India and the Afghan Durrani Empire. The following modern-day political divisions made up the historical Sikh Empire:

Map showing the Punjabi Sikh Empire.

After Ranjit Singh's death in 1839, the empire was severely weakened by internal divisions and political mismanagement. This opportunity was used by the British East India Company to launch the Anglo-Sikh Wars. The Sikh empire was finally dissolved at the end of the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1849 into separate princely states and the British province of Punjab. Eventually, a Lieutenant Governorship was formed in Lahore as a direct representative of the British Crown.

Punjabi Christians

Sadhu Sundar Singh, an influential Punjabi Christian missionary from Ludhiana (1889–1929)

The death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the summer of 1839 brought political chaos and the subsequent battles of succession and the bloody infighting between the factions at court weakened the state. Relationships with neighbouring British territories then broke down, starting the First Anglo-Sikh War; this led to a British official being resident in Lahore and the annexation of territory south of the Sutlej to British India.

In 1877, on St. Thomas' Day at Westminster Abbey, London, Rev Thomas Valpy French was appointed the first Anglican Bishop of Lahore, a large diocese which included all of the Punjab, then under British colonial rule, and remained so until 1887, during this period he also opened the Divinity College, Lahore in 1870.[95][96][97] Rev Thomas Patrick Hughes served as a Church Missionary Society missionary at Peshawar (1864–84), and became an oriental scholar, and compiled a 'Dictionary of Islam' (1885).[98]

Missionaries accompanied the colonising forces from Portugal, France, and Great Britain. Christianity was mainly brought by the British rulers of India in the later 18th and 19th century. This is evidenced in cities established by the British, such as the port city of Karachi, where the majestic St. Patrick's Cathedral, Pakistan's largest church stands, and the churches in the city of Rawalpindi, where the British established a major military cantonment. American missionaries also played a significant part proselytizing in Punjab.[99]

The total number of Punjabi Christians in Pakistan is approximately 2,800,000 and 300,000 in Indian Punjab. Of these, approximately half are Roman Catholic and half Protestant. Many of the modern Punjabi Christians are descended from converts during British rule; initially, conversions to Christianity came from the "upper levels of Punjab society, from the privileged and prestigious", including "high caste" Hindu families, as well as Muslim families.[100][101][102] However, other modern Punjabi Christians have converted from Churas. The Churas were largely converted to Christianity in North India during the British raj. The vast majority were converted from the Mazhabi Sikh communities of Punjab, and to a lesser extent Hindu Churas; under the influence of enthusiastic British army officers and Christian missionaries. Consequently, since the independence they are now divided between Pakistani Punjab and Indian Punjab. Large numbers of Mazhabi Sikhs were also converted in the Moradabad district and the Bijnor district[103] of Uttar Pradesh. Rohilkhand saw a mass conversion of its entire population of 4500 Mazhabi Sikhs into the Methodist Church.[104] Sikh organisations became alarmed at the rate of conversions among high caste Sikh families,[105] and as a result, they responded by immediately dispatching Sikh missionaries to counteract the conversions.


Main article: Punjabi culture

Punjabi culture is the culture of the Punjab region. It is one of the oldest and richest cultures in world history, dating from ancient antiquity to the modern era. The Punjabi culture is the culture of the Punjabi people, who are now distributed throughout the world. The scope, history, sophistication and complexity of the culture are vast. Some of the main areas include Punjabi poetry, philosophy, spirituality, artistry, dance, music, cuisine, military weaponry, architecture, languages, traditions, values and history. Historically, the Punjab/Punjabis, in addition to their rural-agrarian lands and culture, have also enjoyed a unique urban cultural development in two great cities, Lahore[106] and Amritsar.[107]

Role of women

Sophia Duleep Singh, a prominent British Punjabi Suffragette and granddaughter of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab (1876–1948)

In the traditional Punjabi culture women look after the household and children. Also women in general manage the finances of the household. Moreover, Punjabi women fought in the past along with the men when the time arose. Majority of Punjabi women were considered as warriors upon a time, they excelled in the art of both leadership and war. They are still considered and treated as leaders among many Punjabi villages. In certain divisions Punjabi philosophy states that Men are raised to be warriors and women are raised to be leaders. Mai Bhago is a good example in this regard. Punjabi women also have the strong literary tradition. Peero Preman was the first Punjabi woman poet of the mid 18th century.[108][109] She was followed by many other women of repute.


Main article: Punjabi language
Kahn Singh Nabha, a Punjabi lexicographer and encyclopedist from Nabha State (1861–1938)

Punjabi is the most spoken language in Pakistan and eleventh most spoken language in India. According to the Ethnologue 2005 estimate,[110] there are 130 million native speakers of the Punjabi language, which makes it the ninth most widely spoken language in the world. According to the 2008 Census of Pakistan,[111] there are approximately 76,335,300 native speakers of Punjabi in Pakistan, and according to the Census of India, there are over 29,102,477 Punjabi speakers in India.[112] Punjabi is also spoken as a minority language in several other countries where Punjabis have emigrated in large numbers, such as the United Kingdom (where it is the second most commonly used language[113]) and Canada, in which Punjabi has now become the fourth most spoken language after English, French and Chinese, due to the rapid growth of immigrants from Pakistan and India.[114] There are also sizeable communities in the United States, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Persian Gulf countries, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

Punjabis are linguistically and culturally related to the other Indo-Aryan peoples of South Asia. There are an estimated 102 million Punjabi speakers around the world.[115] If regarded as an ethnic group, they are among the world's largest. In South Asia, they are the second largest ethnic group after the Bengali People.

The main language of the Punjabi people is Punjabi and its associated dialects, which differ depending on the region of Punjab the speaker is from; there are notable differences in the Lahnda languages, spoken in the Pakistani Punjab. In the Pakistani Punjab, the vast majority still speak Punjabi, even though the language has no governmental support. In the Indian Punjab, most people speak Punjabi. English is sometimes used, and older people who lived in the undivided Punjab may be able to speak and write in Urdu. The Punjabi languages have always absorbed numerous loanwords from surrounding areas and provinces (and from English).


Main article: Punjabi cuisine
Saron da saag, popular vegetable dish of the Punjabi people.

Punjabi cuisine has an immense range of dishes and has become world-leader in the field; so much so that many entrepreneurs that have invested in the sector have built large personal fortunes due to the popularity of Punjabi cuisine throughout the world. Punjabi cuisine uses unique spices.[116] The Punjabi cuisine has become popular in the world, not only due to its intrinsic quality but, due to the fact that the Punjabi diaspora is very much visible in the western world especially, the UK, Canada and the U.S. The popular dishes are Tandoori chicken,Dal makhni,chicken tikka lababdar, Saron da saag and stuffed or un stuffed naans (a type of unleavened bread). The ubiquitous tandoori chicken and the much loved innovation: the cheese naan, definitely have their origin in Afghanistan or some central Asian countries. The tasty dishes are a result of using dollops of butter and cream in all their dishes. The propensity of the Punjabi (be it from the Pakistani Punjab or the Indian Punjab) is to be very vocal and loud and open about things Punjabi which contributes to its effective marketing, his unquenchable nostalgia of the unending wheat and mustard fields his warmth and welcome to the guest is unbeatable by the various other Indian communities. This makes the Punjabi Cuisine so popular to other famous Indian cuisines, namely- kashmiri, Awadhi, Dakhani, Malabari, Bengali. chettinad, Gujarati etc.


Bhangra describes dance-oriented popular music with Punjabi rhythms, developed since the 1980s. The name refers to one of the traditional and folkloric Punjabi dances. Bhangra music is appreciated all over the globe. Sufi music and Qawali are other important genres in Punjab.[117][118]


Main article: Punjabi dance

Owing to the long history of the Punjabi culture and of the Punjabi people, there are a large number of dances normally performed at times of celebration, the time of festivals known as Melas and the most prominent dances are at Punjabi weddings, where the elation is usually particularly intense. Punjabi dances are performed either by men or by women. The dances range from solo to group dances and also sometimes dances are done along with musical instruments like Dhol, Flute, Supp, Dhumri, Chimta etc. Other common dances that both men and women perform are Karthi, Jindua, and Dandass.[119] "Bhangra" dance is the most famous aspect of Punjabi dance tradition. Its popularity has attained a level where a music is produced with the intent of aiding people to carry out this form of dancing.

Wedding traditions

Punjabi wedding traditions and ceremonies are conducted in Punjabi, and are a strong reflection of Punjabi culture. Many local songs are a part of the wedding and are known as boliyan.[120] While the actual religious marriage ceremony among Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, and Jains may be conducted in Arabic, Punjabi, Sanskrit, by the Kazi, Pandit or Granthi, there are also many commonalities in ritual, song, dance, food, make-up and dress.

The Punjabi wedding has many rituals and ceremonies that have evolved since traditional times. Punjabi receptions of all sorts are known to be very energetic, filled with loud Bhangra music, people dancing, and a wide variety of Punjabi food. Alcohol consumption by the menfolk is part of the tradition amongst Hindu and some Sikh communities that allow it.

Folk tales

Main article: Punjabi folklore

The folk tales of Punjab include many stories[121] which are passing through generations and includes folk stories like Heer Ranjha, Mirza Sahiban,[122] Sohni Mahiwal etc. to name a few.


Vaisakhi, Jashan-e-Baharan, Basant, Kanak katai da mela ( Wheat cutting celebrations ) and many more. The jagrātā, also called jāgā or jāgran, means an all night vigil. This type of vigil is found throughout India and is usually held to worship a deity with song and ritual. The goal is to gain the favour of the Goddess, to obtain some material benefit, or repay her for one already received. The Goddess is invoked by the devotees to pay them a visit at the location of the jagrātā, whether it be in their own homes or communities, in the form of a flame.[123]

Traditional dress

Portrait of Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, dressed in the traditional male attire of Punjab (1718–1783)
Main article: Dastar

A Dastaar is an item of headgear associated with Sikhi and is an important part of the Punjabi and Sikh culture. The symbolic article of the nation represents honour, self-respect, courage, spirituality, and piety. Wearing a Sikh dastaar, or turban, is mandatory for all Amritdhari (initiated) Sikh men and women. In ancient times, two Punjabis would exchange their turbans to show friendship towards each other. Prior to Sikhi, only kings, royalty, and those of high stature wore turbans.[124]

Punjabi suit
Main article: Shalwar kameez

A Punjabi suit that features three items - a qameez (top), salwar (bottom) and dupatta (scarf)[125] is the traditional female attire of the Punjabi people.[126] A qameez is a usually loose-fitted outer garment from upper thigh to mid-calf length. Along with the qameez, Punjabi women wear a salwaar that consists of long trousers drawn at the waist and tapered to the ankle.[127] The other complementary feature of the Punjabi suit is the dupatta; often used to cover the chest and head.[127] Among the Punjabi people, the dupatta has long been a symbol of modesty.[128]

Kurta Pajama
Main article: Kurta

A Kurta pajama that comprises two items - a kurta (top) and pajama (bottom) is the traditional male attire of the Punjabi people.


Main article: Sports in Punjab

Various types of sports are played in Punjab. They are basically divided into outdoor and indoor sports. Special emphasis is put to develop both the mental and physical capacity while playing sports. That is why recently sports like Speed reading, Mental abacus, historical and IQ tests are arranged as well. Indoor sports are specially famous during the long summer season in Punjab. Also indoor sports are played by children in homes and in schools. Gilli-danda is vary famous indigenous sports among children along with Parcheesi. Pittu Garam is also famous among children. Stapu is famous among young girls of Punjab. Also many new games are included with the passage of time. The most notable are Carrom, Ludo (board game), Scrabble, Chess, Draughts, Go Monopoly. The Tabletop games games include billiards and snooker. Backgammon locally known as Dimaagi Baazi( Mental game) is famous in some regions as well.

The outdoor sports include Kusti (a wrestling sport), Kabaddi, Rasa Kashi (a rope pulling game), Patang (Kite Flying) and Naiza Baazi or Tent pegging (a cavalry sport).Gatka, is also taken as a form of sports, Punjabi's are naturally dominant in sports because of their physical attributes and genetic advantage. Punjab being part of South Asia, the sport of cricket is very popular. New forms of sports are also being introduced and adopted in particular by the large overseas Punjabis, such as Ice hockey, Soccer, Boxing, Mixed martial arts as part of the globalisation of sports.

Notable people

See also


  1. Includes only Punjabi language-speaking populations.


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References and further reading

External links

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